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U.S. Premiere of Stephen Scott's "Paisajes Audibles" at Other Minds 9, 2003

Published March 8, 2003

U.S. Premiere of Stephen Scott's Paisajes Audibles (Audible Landscapes) for soprano and bowed piano (2002) at Other Minds 9 at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 2003.

Victoria Hansen, soprano
Colorado College Bowed Piano Ensemble - Nicole Benton, Elissa Greene, Alexander Smith, Laura Whalin, Daniel Wiencek, Matthew Wirzbicki,
Sienna Wolf-Ekblad, Rebecca Wood, Sayo Yamaguchi
Stephen Scott, director
Amy Scott, video projection

Fortunate Isle (adapted from prose by Plato and by Verner Z. Reed)
Cenicero (poetry by Pedro Perdomo Acedo)
Lancelot 28º - 7º (adapted from prose by Augustín Espinosa)
Diez Barcos
El Aparato Caballeresco
En su Isla
Poema del Cante Jondo (poetry by Federico García Lorca)
Sólo Queda el Desierto
La Guitarra
Little Dance Suite
La Canaris (poetry by Stephen Scott)
Spanish Slow Dance (reprise of Sólo Queda el Desierto)
El Tango Nuevo

Paisajes Audibles was commissioned by Other Minds Festival as part of the national series of works from Meet The Composer Commissioning Music/USA, which is made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Helen F. Whitaker Fund, and the Target Foundation.

Paisajes Audibles/Audible Landscapes was composed, on commission from Meet The Composer Commissioning Music USA, for Other Minds Festival 9. The work is a kind of song-cycle fantasy celebrating various landscapes, both physical and imagined, both natural and cultural, of Lanzarote, easternmost of the Canary Islands. I was inspired to make this work not only as a personal manifestation of my affection for Lanzarote, which I have now visited three times, but also in response to two other sources: the evocative work of painter/photographer /installation artist Ildefonso Aguilar, Founder and Director of the Visual Music Festival of Lanzarote and whose recent series of paintings, Paisajes Audibles, provides my title; and the poetry and prose of several writers, including Plato, Lorca and Agustín Espinosa, who have examined ideas of landscape and the humans
who are shaped by it and shape it in turn.

My work for the past twenty-five years has centered on the bowed piano, a medium primarily of my own devising but influenced also by the discoveries of other experimentalists such as Henry Cowell, John Cage, and Curtis Curtis-Smith. Most of the sounds are made by ten players directly on the strings of the open grand piano using a variety of materials and tools; among these are nylon fishline, rubber tape, horsehair, guitar picks and fingernails, piano hammers, percussion mallets and specially-designed piano mutes. The music also owes a huge stylistic debt to the thinking of American pioneers Terry Riley and Steve Reich, as well as to various world musics, especially West African music, jazz and flamenco.

Paisajes Audibles/Sounding Landscapes is my first major work to integrate the human voice with the Bowed Piano Ensemble. The texts sung and spoken by the soprano (and occasionally by the players) are in English, Spanish and French (see translations). Most are self-explanatory, but perhaps that by Augustín Espinoza (Lancelot 28º - 7º) could benefit from some explication. There has long been said to be a connection between Lanzarote and, the fabled knight of King Arthur's court. One of the medieval romances from about 1220 A.D. tells us that Sir Lancelot and his son Sir Galahad spent six months wandering aboard a seagoing ship, and "...many times they came to distant islands, populated by nothing but wild animals, and they encountered extraordinary adventures, which they achieved, whether by their prowess or by the grace of the Holy Spirit, who was always with them." (I am grateful to Prof. Norris Lacy of Pennsylvania State University for this citation and translation.) In 1928 Espinosa imagined, perhaps based on this passage, a visit to the latitude and longitude of Lanzarote by Sir Lancelot during his quest for the Holy Grail; Espinosa invented a kind of creation myth in which Lancelot arrived from northern climes with ten ships flying his heraldic pennants, installed a fire-breathing dragon in the center of the island (today the dormant volcanoes of the Montañas del Fuego), dug large caves (today Cueva de los Verdes and Jameos del Agua), and built many castles, some of which still stand. He accomplished all of this in six days, and on the septima alba (dawn of the seventh day) he, like God, rested. He lived the remainder of his days in splendid isolation, contemplating the Atlantic monotony of blue sea and white castles, reading widely in the heroic tales of Homer, Virgil, Lucan and Apolonius of Rhodes, imagining himself as Odysseus and prefiguring the exile, on another African island in the Atlantic, of a later hero: Napoleon of St. Helena.

A short, in-progress version of Paisajes Audibles was introduced in March by Ms. Hansen and the Ensemble in Berlin, Prague and Sofia; in October we gave the first performance of the complete work in its "natural habitat," Lanzarote. The piece is dedicated to Ilfefonso Aguilar and Charles Amirkhanian, two of contemporary music's most visionary presenters; Aguilar's work has given life to Harry Partch's dictum that "the eye explains to the ear and the ear fulfills the vision;" and Amirkhanian has for decades been teaching Americans, musicians and listeners alike, much of what we need to know about our own new music and about each other.

Vocal Texts for Paisajes Audibles/Sounding Landscapes

Fortunate Isle --adapted from A Rosary of Islands by Verner Z. Reed and from Plato's Timaeus and Critias

...and away across the trackless leagues of the sounding seas that continue forever and forever to sing the great songs that we cannot understand, its shores washed by another sea, its brow fanned by warmer breezes, lay another island, "afortunado," Atlantida. (Reed)

Atlantis, larger than Libya and Asia together, where kings of great power held sway over all the island and many others. And these Fortunate Islands produced and brought to perfection trees, flowers and fruits, and all sweet-scented stuffs, and all animals which haunt the marshes and lakes and rivers, or the mountains or plains. All these that hallowed island beneath the sun produced in marvelous beauty and endless abundance.

The kings built their cities to ingenious plan, and the harbors were filled with merchant ships from all quarters, which by their multitude caused clamor and tumult, and an unceasing din night and day. And the Temple of Poseidon they coated with silver, the pinnacles with gold. They made the ceiling ivory, variegated with gold and silver and orichalcum. And they placed therein golden statues.

But at a later time came portentous earthquakes and floods, and Atlantis was swallowed up by the sea and vanished. When the gods purge the earth with a flood of waters, all the herdsmen and shepherds in the mountains are saved; what remains is like a skeleton, only the bare framework of the land being left. (Plato) ...Azores, Madeira, Canarias...

And so forever surges the sea, so forever it sings its great songs. (Reed)

Cenicero, de Recitados Lanzaroteños de Pedro Perdomo Acedo

La soledad me llama por mi nombre de pila
Desde el friso cinético
Cuajado en el caliente trastorno de las piedras
Al pie del velón vivo que a combustión cumplida
Paralizó las puntas ardientes del incendio
Por sentirse arrastrados a fosa colectiva
Exactamente abierta a dimension de un pueblo.

Mas no es otra la meta
En la amarilla sombra de la noche del fuego,
Lenta como la vaga muerte de las escorias
Al expandir las señas precursoras del freno;
Y toda consumida sobre sus propias brasas
En un mundo sin luna pelotari del cielo
Aún ensortija el aire la póstuma voluta
Al esplendor quemado que entierra el cenicero.

Cenicero by Pedro Perdomo Acedo (translated by George Gafner)

I hear solitude calling my name
From the quivering pillar amidst
The feverish calamity of the stones
At the foot of the burning lamp whose
Dying light drags us to a common grave
The size of the town.
There is singular purpose in the yellow
Shadow of fire night, slow like lingering
Death of the ashes, all burned on its own
Coals, no crescent moon in the sky of this
World, air swirls around the death pillar,
Background to the scorched splendor
Surrounding the ash pit.

de Lancelot 28º - 7º de Agustin Espinosa

Lanzarote representa el fin geográfico e histórico de Lancelot.
Apresado quedó entre los grados 28? y 7? el británico caballero
del carro, en su primer paseo del Atlántico. La isla africana
fue para Lancelot Mediodia y Oriente a un mismo tiempo.
Lo que convenía a sus apetencias aventureras. El complemento
histórico y geográfico de su Occidente y de su Septentrión.
Su recinto de senectud, también. La quinta meridional, con
jardines ascéticos, donde repasar tras los cristales de la alcoba
encortinada su nórdico enamoramiento: su tristanismo de los
veinte años. Fue, también, un poco, su isla de la penitencia.

Diez barcos de Bretaña trajeron la decoración bretona, el traje
caballeresco que Lancelot quiso que visitiera su isla: castillos
de puentes volantes y soldados defensores con cuerda para
40 dias; dragones cósmicos--hoy Montañas del Fuego--que
un fuelle colosal mantenía siempre ardientes; y planos para
laberintos subterráneos, donde, como en las aventurars del Norte,
haber también reinas raptadas, o muchachas perdidas,
en espera del descubridor.

Repartió Lancelot entre el Norte y el Sur, entre el Este y el
Oeste, los castillos británicos. Encadenó, en el centro de la
isla, el dragon mayor. Sobre los planos de Bretaña
se construyeron , bajo su Mirada bretona, los laberintos
subterráneos--hoy casi desaparecidos--de los Verdes y el Agua.
Cuando todo el aparato caballeresco estuvo repartido. Cuando
tuvo su escenario épico, propio. Lancelot, como el Dios
evangelista de la séptima alba, descansó.

Luego hubieron de quietarle la infantilidad bretona y la
monotonía atlántica: azul de mar y blanco de castillos.
El a-isla-miento le hizo lector atropellado de Virgilio
y de Homero; de Lucano y de Apolonio de Rodas.
Los autores pedidos siglos después por otro gran
a-isla-do oceánico: el Napoleón de Santa Elena:
héro de pura linea lancelótica.

En su isla africana, leyó Lancelot anchos libros de viejas
aventuras. Con las antiparras más pesadas de su caja de antiparras
para presbiopes. Con las antiparras que agigantan
desmesuradamente letras y hazañas. Sobre todo, el retorno, lleno
de islas, de Odiseo. Isla de las Sirenas. Isla de Circe. Isla de
Trinaquia. Isla de Ogigia. Lancelot veía las islas odisianas como
estaciones del viaje de regreso. Si en la isla de Ogigia paraba Odiseo
siete años era porque la guardavía era Calipso, nifa rubia, maestra
del beso, de la caricia y del mañana.

Lancelot fue así homerizando, mediterranizando, su isla. Otra estación
más. Para el, la última. La estación dode se toma ya el coche de la

Pero él podia ponerla junto a las estaciones griegas. Alistarla. Su isla
del Atlántico con las islas del Mediterráneo. Heroicidarla. Hacerla
estación larga como la de Ogigia: en lugar de los brazos nínfeos de
Calipso, los heterogéneos de un peine de marfil y un rizo dorado.

Las lecturas homéridas adelgazaron las gafas más gruesas. Pusieron
una valla de música épica entre Lancelot y la isla. Toda la gran
decoración bretona fue tomando ese aspecto que adquieren
los jardines abandanados. Crecieron desmesuradamente los
castillos. Almenas y torres se alargaron como pedúnculos. Los
puentes levadizos mezclaban su proa con la proa de los puentes
más próximos. Se desenrolló, en vacaciones perennes, la cuerda
de los soldados defensores.

En su lecturas épicas, Lancelot dejó ir apagando las Montañas
del Fuego. Hoy casi apagadas. Que apenas sirven ya para
asador paradígmico de los turistas sin aspiraciones. Dejó que
se fundiera el laberinto de Los Verdes y el del Jameo del Agua.
Que el mar raptara el Castillo del Este. Que el viento djara sin
fortalezas al Oeste y al Norte.

--from Agustin Espinosa: Lancelot 28º - 7º (translated by
Stephen Scott, with assistance from Kevin O'Connor and George Gafner)

Lanzarote represents the geographic and historic end of Lancelot. Caught between coordinates 28º - 7º the English Knight of the Cart, in his first Atlantic passage. The African island is for Lancelot South and East at the same time. That which agrees with his appetite for adventure. The historic and geographic complement to his West and North. The closing in of old age, also. The southern villa, with ascetic gardens, where he can retrace behind the panes of the curtained bedroom his Nordic infatuation: his Tristanism of a twenty-year-old. It is also, a little bit, his island of penitence.

Ten ships of Brittany flying the Breton colors, the knightly dress which Lancelot wants to adorn his island: castles with flying bridges and defending soldiers with gear for 40 days; cosmic dragons--today the Mountains of Fire--which colossal bellows keep constantly burning; and maps for subterranean labyrinths, where, as in the northern adventures, there might be kidnapped queens, or lost maidens, waiting to be found.

Lancelot distributed, between North and South, between East and West, Britannic castles. He chained up, in the center of the island, the great dragon. Based on plans from Brittany
there were constructed, under his Breton oversight, the subterranean cavestoday almost vanishedLos Verdes and del Agua." When all the knightly apparatus was distributed, when he had his own epic stage, Lancelot, like God at the seventh dawn, rested.

Later he would be comforted by his Breton innocence and the Atlantic monotony: blue of sea and white of castles.

The isolation made him a voracious reader of Virgil and Homer, of Lucan and Apolonius of Rhodes, writers asked for centuries later by another great oceanic exile: Napoleon of Saint Helena: a hero of the pure line of Lancelot.

On his African island, Lancelot read widely in the books of the great adventurers. With heavier glasses than those for nearsightedness. With glasses which immoderately enlarge letters and deeds. Above all, the return journey, replete with islands, of Odysseus. Island of the Sirens. Island of Circe. Island of Thrinacia. Island of Ogygia. Lancelot saw the islands of the Odyssey as stops along the return journey. If Odysseus was on the island of Ogygia seven years it was because the guard was Calypso, blonde nymph, mistress of the kiss, of the caress, and of tomorrow.

Lancelot thus Homerized, Mediterraneanized his island. One more stop. For him, the last one. The stop where his funeral coach already stood waiting.

But he could place it next to the Greek stops. He joined them up. His Atlantic island with the Mediterranean ones. He made it heroic. He made his stay a long one, as at Ogygia: instead of the nymph-like arms of Calypso, the different snares of an ivory comb and a golden lock.

The Homeric readings slimmed down the thick glasses. They placed a veil of epic music between Lancelot and the island. All the great Breton decoration was taking on the aspect of abandoned gardens. In the proliferation of countless castles, towers and ramparts shot up like flower stalks. The drawbridges entangled their prows with those of the next drawbridges. The ropes of the defensive soldiers uncoiled themselves, on permanent holiday.

During his epic readings, Lancelot let the Mountains of Fire burn out. Today they are nearly extinguished. How sad that they now serve only as a model barbecue for tourists without aspirations! Lancelot left the Green Cave and the Jameos del Agua to burn out.
How the sea now kidnaps the Castle of the East! How the wind leaves the West and North without fortification!

Sólo Queda el Desierto (Y despuès)
de Poema del Cante Jondo de Federico García Lorca

Los laberintos
que crea el tiempo,
se desvanecen.

(Sólo queda
el desierto.)

El corazón,
fuente del deseo,
se desvance.

(Sólo queda
el desierto.)

La illusion de la aurora
y los besos,
se desvanecen.

Sólo queda
el desierto.
Un ondulado

Only the Desert Remains (And Then)
From Poem of the Deep Song by Federico Garcia Lorca
(translated by Cola Franzen)

The labyrinths
that time creates

(Only the desert

The heart,
fountain of desire,

(Only the desert

The illusion of dawn
and kisses

Only the desert

La Guitarra

Empieza el llanto
de la guitarra.
Se rompen las copas
el la madrugada.
Empieza el llanto
de la guitarra.
Es inútil
Es imposible
Llora monótona
como llora el agua,
como llora el viento
sobre la nevada.
Es imposible
Llora por cosas
Arena del Sur caliente
que pide camelias blancas.
Llora flecha sin blanco,
la tarde sin mañana
y el primer pájaro muerto
sobre la rama.
¡Oh Guitarra!
Corazón malherido
por cinco espadas.

The Guitar

The weeping of the guitar
The goblets of dawn
are smashed.
The weeping of the guitar
to silence it.
to silence it.
It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
over snowfields.
to silence it.
It weeps for distant
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Oh, guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.

La Canaris de M. Chambonnières de Stephen Scott

De la plume de Monsieur Jacques Champion de Chambonnières
Viens cette pièce de clavessin.
Il l'appelle "Canaris" comme une parodie
De la danse et de la chanson des indigènes de Canaris.

C'est honteux que Monsieur Jacques
Soit si moqueur de ces choses!
On peut bien se passer de lui!

Canaris by Stephen Scott

From the pen of Mr. Jacques Champion de Chambonnières
Comes this harpsichord piece.
He calls it "Canaris" as a parody
Of the dance and song of the Canarian natives.

It's shameful that M. Jacques
Is so mocking of these things!
Who needs him?!

Source Other Minds
Run time 01:01:18
Label / Recorded by Other Minds


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